Night Of The Bicycles

Last summer in Moscow a few hundred cycling and architecture enthusiasts gathered at midnight to take part in a 22 kilometre, five-hour bicycle tour of the city’s architecture. Participants came equipped with bike pumps, helmets, headphones and an FM radio and were guided through the city via a broadcasted audio tour. That year participants were taken to Moscow’s East Side where they explored a 2,000 hectare estate of Peter the Great’s father, the recently closed Cherkizovskiy market — one of the biggest of its kind — and the industrial alleys of Kaloshino.

Begun in 2004, and christened as Velonoch (‘Bicycle Night’ in Russian), the event was held as an attempt to discover a broad cross-section of the city’s architecture, during a period outside of the hustle and bustle of normal everyday Moscow life. In addition, the night ride allows cyclists to better navigate the streets, in a notoriously unbike friendly city, and enjoy their architectural surroundings unencumbered by traffic.

Last summer the event was also held in Rome, and this summer it is scheduled for Vienna and St.Petersburg. What is striking about the event is its charming and almost already anachronistic use of FM broadcasting. In an era where these kinds of events are increasingly moderated by smartphones, FM radio recalls the collective dissent of pirate radio more prevalent in the eighties and kitschified in movies like Pump Up the Volume and suggests that this form of communication might be more effective with events like this, both for its ability to reach a broader range of people, and for generating the feeling of a collective experience that smart phones might not be able to achieve.